Charlie’s birthday was last Sunday, but Sunday, we were at the tail end of a 30+ hour train ride from New Orleans back to New York. Our trip was delayed a bit because of the tornado in Alabama. We actually rode right through Tuscaloosa, AL, and the damage was just incredible. It was super sad and almost unbelievable to just see huge trees absolutely snapped in half. If you’d like to help the folks out in Alabama, one way you can do it is by texting FOOD to 27722 to donate $10 to the West Alabama Food Bank.
Now that we’re back in New York, and I’ve spend the week resting and doing laundry and other mundane stuff, it’s time to catch up on Charlie’s birthday. We had about four pounds of carrots from our last winter CSA delivery, so a carrot cake was certainly in order.
As usual, when making this recipe, I looked at a whole bunch of different carrot cake recipes and then mishmoshed them together, though I’d say the one that was the closest to what I was looking for was over at The Joy of Baking. I still made a bunch of changes, including reducing the amount of raisins and nuts and pineapple and making a spicier cake, since those are things that (if I recall correctly!) I’ve heard Charlie say he prefers in a carrot cake.
Charlie’s mom was around when I was baking this cake, and I let her taste the batter. She made a noise of exclamation. “What did you put in this?” she demanded. “It’s going to smell so good,” she said. She went to the kitchen window and started to open the window, then looked back at me. “That way the neighbors can smell it and be jealous,” she smiled.
Usually when I bake, it’s all about the flavor and nothing about the presentation. Friday night, though, I took a nap while the cake was cooling, then got a second wind and baked a whole second cake! I decided to really spend some time decorating the carrot cake while the chocolate chip cake was in the oven. The decorating didn’t come out perfectly, since it got to be two in the morning, I was getting sleepy, and the sequence that I did certain things in was not necessarily the most efficient, but it came out pretty darn nice.
I almost never write on cakes [the last time I did was probably last year's super silly birthday cake for myself, when I couldn't even find the tip for writing] so I was really, really happy with how the script came out. I took a half dozen semesters of typography in college, so I would have been gutted if my cake lettering was awful.
I think I’m getting the hang of this baking thing. *wink*
Photo of the cake topped with drunk raisins, drunk pineapple, and drunk ginger.
1 1/2 cups oil
4 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 pound carrots, shredded (about 3 1/2 cups shredded, or about a dozen small carrots)
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup raisins
2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger
2 tablespoons finely chopped pineapple (optional)
a few tablespoons of flavorful bourbon (I used Woodford Reserve)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon cardamom
Ingredients: Cream Cheese Frosting
(sorry, I just kind of flung things into the mixer on this one!)
2 bricks of cream cheese
3/4 stick of butter
2 cups (or more, according to taste) confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons bourbon (I used Woodford Reserve)
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
toasted coconut (for garnish)
Carrot Cake: Several hours before beginning, make the “drunk raisins.” I learned this tip from a new friend when we were out in New Orleans – thanks, Darnell! Place the raisins and ginger (and pineapple, if desired) in a small bowl. Add a small amount of bourbon – enough so that the fruit is covered. Let it soak for at least an hour, preferably more. Reserve a few tablespoons of this mixture for the decorating step.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Spray two 9″ cake pans.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom.
In bowl of a stand mixer mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the eggs until frothy (about 1 minute). Gradually add the sugar and beat until the batter is thick and light colored (about 3 – 4 minutes). Add the oil in a steady stream and then beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat just until incorporated. With a large rubber spatula fold in the grated carrots, drunk raisins (don’t forget to reserve some!), and chopped nuts. Evenly divide the batter between the two prepared pans and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. After about 5 -10 minutes invert the cakes onto the wire rack and then cool completely before frosting.
To assemble: place one cake layer onto your serving plate. Spread with about half the frosting. Sprinkle nuts, ginger and raisins if desired. Gently place the other cake onto the frosting and spread the rest of the frosting over the top of the cake. If desired, garnish with toasted coconut around the sides of the cake. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers.
Note about decorating: If you’re like me, and you prefer a much less sweet frosting, your frosting won’t be as stiff. What I did was frost the cake with the thinner icing, then, for the remaining 1/3 or so of the frosting, I added an extra cup or two of confectioners’ sugar. That way, the frosting was stiff enough to pipe the letters and the edge, but the entire cake wasn’t sickeningly sweet.